Capital Township voters would get to decide whether the township could merge with Sangamon County government under legislation the Illinois House is expected to consider this week. State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, chief sponsor of House Bill 2994, said a full merger of the township would be “a simple, good government” measure that would save money for township taxpayers. Capital
Capital Township voters would get to decide whether the township could merge with Sangamon County government under legislation the Illinois House is expected to consider this week.
State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, chief sponsor of House Bill 2994, said a full merger of the township would be “a simple, good government” measure that would save money for township taxpayers. Capital Township is located inside Springfield and shares most of the city’s boundaries.
Though the bill was passed unanimously by a House committee on April 15 and has some Democratic co-sponsors, the legislation is part of a political battle between Republicans who control Sangamon County government and Democrats such as Mayor Jim Langfelder in Springfield city government.
Seventy-four percent of township voters supported a merger of Capital Township with the county in a November 2018 advisory referendum.
But Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin, an independent on the officially nonpartisan Springfield City Council, said the referendum’s results were skewed because voters “weren’t aware that the better consolidation is with the city government as opposed to the county government.”
In particular, he said township residents are best represented by city aldermen when it comes to general assistance programs serving low-income individuals. About 2,500 Capital Township residents receive $750,000 to $1 million per year in general assistance for issues such as rent, utility payments and employee training programs.
About half of the 29 Sangamon County Board members live outside Springfield, but they would have a say over general assistance programs for city residents if Capital Township merged with the county, McMenamin said.
“You want the money spent by people who have a direct self-interest for how the money should be spent for public assistance,” he said.
Butler disagreed with McMenamin’s argument and said Springfield aldermen also represent some city residents who live outside Capital Township.
The legislation would give Sangamon County officials the same ability to conduct a binding referendum on a Capital Township merger that the city and other Illinois municipalities interested in merging received through legislation in 2017, Butler said.
The Capital Township board would have to approve any referendum for a city or county merger before a referendum could be held.
Langfelder’s proposal for a referendum on a potential merger with Capitol Township failed in January 2019, mostly because of votes by Republican aldermen, McMenamin said.
Parts of the operations of Capital Township already are performed by employees of Sangamon County as part of state legislation approved more than 100 years ago in a unique arrangement between a county and township in Illinois.
Sangamon County Treasurer Joe Aiello, a Republican who also serves as the Capital Township supervisor and has a vote on the GOP-dominated township board, receives $14,200 a year for his township duties, putting his total pay from both governmental units at $121,200.
County Clerk Don Gray, a Republican who also serves as the Capital Township assessor and clerk, receives the same amount as Aiello for his township duties. Gray doesn’t have a vote on the township board and receives the same total pay as Aiello.
Sangamon County Republicans said several years ago that a merger would save more than $600,000 a year and provide residents tax relief through a reduction in township employees and other related costs.
Aiello said Wednesday that about $200,000 of the $600,000 already has been saved, and the township’s tax levy and tax rate have dropped, because of cost savings achieved by the township working with the county.
A merger would save an additional $400,000 because township pay for county employees and some other township expenses would end, Aiello said.
Langfelder, whose job as mayor is officially nonpartisan, said he opposes Butler’s legislation. Rather than approving special legislation pertaining only to Sangamon County, the General Assembly should eliminate township parcels statewide that are inside a municipality as a relief to taxpayers, the mayor said.
In 2019, Langfelder proposed creating a city/county committee to oversee Capital Township expenses and determine the initial property tax rebate percentage achieved through any merger. The committee idea hasn’t progressed, he said.
Langfelder said he thinks the city would be able to save more money for township taxpayers.
Aiello disagreed. “The city’s got enough on their plate right now,” he said. “They can’t handle what they have right now.”
Under Butler’s legislation, a successful referendum for Sangamon County government would not eliminate the township’s tax rate because it would be incorporated by the county, though the township board would be dissolved.
“You’re essentially keeping the taxing structure in place, and that is not the intent of consolidating townships,” Langfelder said.
Contact Dean Olsen: firstname.lastname@example.org; (217) 836-1068; twitter.com/DeanOlsenSJR.